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Advance care planning

If you cannot communicate your preferences for care, who would speak for you? What would you want them to say? Advance care planning helps make sure your loved ones and your doctors know what your health and personal preferences are. Advance care planning can give everyone some peace of mind.

What is advance care planning?

Advance care planning is the process of planning for your current and future health care. It involves talking about your values, beliefs and preferences with your loved ones and doctors. This helps them make decisions about your care when you can’t.

Ideally these conversations start when you are well and then continue throughout your life.

Who needs an advance care plan?

Everyone should consider an advance care plan, regardless of your age or health. It can be particularly important if you have:

  • an advanced chronic illness
  • a life-limiting illness
  • you are at risk of dementia or a related illness

You do not have to have a terminal illness to start talking about your wishes. Like making a will, advance care planning may simply be a part of planning for the future.

How do you make an advance care plan?

Start your advance care plan by thinking about what you want. You don’t need to make it complicated but it’s important to be open about what you would like.

The next step is to talk to your loved ones. These conversations can sometimes be difficult. Having these conversations is important because this will let them know what your wishes are.

To get some tips about talking to your loved ones about your plan, read more about starting the conversation.

If you want to, you can then formalise your advance care plan through an advance care directive .  An advance care directive is a type of written advance care plan. It’s sometimes called a living will.

Forms and requirements for writing advance care directives vary between states and territories. For information specific to your state or territory, please visit Advance Care Planning Australia.

Uploading your advance care plan to My Health Record

You can add an advance care plan to your My Heath Record so it’s available to your treating doctors if ever needed.

You can also store the names of people you have shared your advance care plan with.

Keeping your advance care plan up to date

It’s important to keep your advance care plan and advance care directive up to date. You can change both at any time. You can then give copies of your most up-to-date directive to your family and all your health professionals. The most recent version available is the one that will be followed. 

You should review your advance care plan and directive:

Where to get help, support, and advice

For further help on making an advance care plan go to Advance Care Planning Australia.

What we are doing about advance care planning

The Australian government funds the following projects to support advance care planning:

ELDAC: End of life directions for aged care

Advance Care Planning Australia

The Advance Project: Initiating Palliative Care and Advance Care Planning: Training and Resources for General Practice Nurses

Review and update of the National Framework for Advance Care Directives 2011

Last updated: 
25 July 2019

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